'Rampage' Review

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Dwayne Johnson and director Brad Peyton have previously collaborated on the fun family adventure sequel “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and 2015’s surprisingly sophisticated, excellent action/thriller “San Andreas”. But film No. 3 for this duo isn’t nearly as successful…more proof that the Johnson charm-o-meter is continuing to trend in the wrong direction.

“Rampage” is based on the 1986 video arcade game about giant animal monsters destroying cities and battling the military. For this film version there is also the element of genetic engineering thrown in. When an experiment on a space station goes wrong, an explosion sends three containers with DNA-altering chemicals to Earth.

One of the containers lands in the primate sanctuary inside the San Diego Zoo. George, an Albino Gorilla, checks it out (I guess you could call him “Curious George”). His best friend, primate specialist Davis Okoye (played by Johnson) notices George’s immediate increase in size and strength, and so does the government and the military. Okoye teams-up with Kate (Naomie Harris), a former employee of the genetics company who created the concoction, to try to figure out how they can prevent George and two other infected animals – a wolf and an alligator – from completely annihilating Chicago.

George the Albino Gorilla
George the Albino Gorilla

The first half of “Rampage” is dullsville. Scenes involving Johnson and his Zoo assistants are corny, and interactions with the gorilla are technically clumsy. When “The Walking Dead”’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan enters the picture, as a rootin’ tootin’ federal agent, my interest did pick-up. I wanted to see how long he could stick with his character’s ridiculous southern accent. I give him credit for going the whole movie without breaking it.

The second half of “Rampage” is essentially one extensive sequence involving the now King Kong-size animals destroying Chicago and The Rock having to use his giant muscles and not-so giant wit to save the day. The visuals are surprisingly poor (with a lot of sub-par green screen). I did laugh out loud a couple times due to the sheer devastation taking place (making what the Transformers did to the Windy City in “Dark of the Moon” look tame in comparison), but at no point is “Rampage” entertaining enough to even be considered a guilty pleasure.

The premise is insane, but the execution is way too straightforward. And Johnson no longer has the ability to turn a mindless action film into a must-see movie.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)